21A.350J / SP.484J / STS.086J / WGS.484J The Anthropology of Computing

Fall 2004

Photo of four women holding computer boards.
U.S. Army Photo, number 163-12-62. Left: Patsy Simmers, holding ENIAC board Next: Mrs. Gail Taylor, holding EDVAC board Next: Mrs. Milly Beck, holding ORDVAC board Right: Mrs. Norma Stec, holding BRLESC-I board. (Image courtesy of the U.S. Army. Source: Muuss, Mike. "Historic Computer Images.")

Course Highlights

This course features notes for many of the lectures, plus a full bibliography in the readings section.

Course Description

This course examines computers anthropologically, as meaningful tools revealing the social and cultural orders that produce them. We read classic texts in computer science along with works analyzing links between machines and culture. We explore early computation theory and capitalist manufacturing; cybernetics and WWII operations research; artificial intelligence and gendered subjectivity; the creation and commodification of the personal computer; the hacking aesthetic; non-Western histories of computing; the growth of the Internet as a military, academic, and commercial project; the politics of identity in cyberspace; and the emergence of "evolutionary" computation.
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Prof. Stefan Helmreich

Course Meeting Times

One session / week
3 hours / session